With all of the focus on the presidential primary and other national races in 2024, it’s easy to overlook some critical statewide elections underway as well. In Missouri, where all statewide offices are currently held by Republicans (and look likely to remain that way), the real contest is shaping up in the state’s primaries, set for August 6.
One of those key races is for Attorney General. The two declared candidates for that seat are its current occupant, Andrew Bailey, and former federal prosecutor, Will Scharf.
Before we look at the current state of that race, a bit of background (get your scorecard out): The seat has been in Republican hands since the 2016 election. Now-Sen. Josh Hawley (R) won the position in November of that year, defeating Democrat Theresa Hensley by 17 points and replacing Democrat Chris Koster (who ran for governor that year, losing to Eric Greitens). Hawley then opted to run for U.S. Senate in 2018, successfully unseating Claire McCaskill (D), albeit with a narrower margin (just shy of six points).
When Hawley moved on to the Senate, then-State Treasurer Eric Schmitt (R) was appointed by Governor Mike Parson (R) (who replaced Greitens after he resigned) to replace him. Schmitt served as AG between 2019 and 2023, during which time he made more than a few waves challenging COVID restrictions and the Biden administration on a number of fronts, most notably, the ongoing Missouri v. Biden litigation over the government’s censorious attempts to quash free speech via its collaboration with social media platforms.
In 2022, Schmitt opted to vie for Missouri’s other U.S. Senate seat, which opened up when Roy Blunt (R) announced he wouldn’t be seeking reelection. After a hard-fought primary, in which he ultimately (handily) defeated several notable Republicans, including Greitens, Schmitt went on to notch a 13-point win over Democrat Trudy Busch Valentine in November 2022. But that meant another AG would need to be appointed to replace him.
Enter Andrew Bailey. An Iraq War veteran, Bailey, 42, earned his law degree from the University of Missouri. He served as an Assistant Prosecutor in Warren County, Missouri, as well as an Assistant Attorney General. He then served as General Counsel for the Missouri Department of Corrections before joining Parson’s office as General Counsel in 2019.
Since his appointment as AG, Bailey has continued the prosecution of litigation initiated by Schmitt, brought quo warranto proceedings to oust failed St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, and launched an investigation into the Washington University Pediatric Transgender Center.
Bailey is now running for a full term as AG and facing a challenge in the primary from attorney Will Scharf. Scharf, 37, earned his undergraduate degree from Princeton University and his law degree from Harvard. Scharf clerked for both the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. He served as a policy director for Greitens during his tenure as governor. Scharf also served as an Assistant US Attorney in the Violent Crime Unit of the DOJ’s Criminal Division.
Scharf notes on his campaign website that he “was instrumental in confirming Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court,” and more recently, has signed on as an attorney for former President Donald Trump’s legal team in the criminal case brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith in D.C.
When the indictment regarding Trump’s alleged mishandling/retention of classified documents was revealed last June, Scharf dissected the case on X/Twitter.
READ MORE: Former Asst. US Attorney Takes Apart Trump Case and Raises Some Important Questions
More recently, Scharf had a bit of fun with Hunter Biden’s “tax free holiday shopping list.”
Hunter Biden’s tax free holiday shopping list!
He’s making a list, deducting it twice, gonna find out which stripper he likes.
Hunter Biden’s coming to town!
A thread of my favorite lines from the new Hunter Biden tax fraud indictment.
— Will Scharf (@willscharf) December 8, 2023
In terms of endorsements, thus far, Bailey has secured those of his predecessor, Schmitt, and of Parson, the governor who appointed him to the position. Scharf, in turn, is endorsed by Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk, author and radio/TV talk show host Mark Levin, and the Club for Growth.
The most recent polling available on the race comes from the Missouri Scout and shows Bailey leading Scharf by seven points (24 percent to 17 percent), with 59 percent undecided. Similar polling in April of 2023, also by the Missouri Scout, showed Bailey leading by 10 points, again at 24 percent, with Scharf at 14 percent and 62 percent undecided. Thus, the percentage of undecideds has decreased by three points, while Scharf has picked up three points. Bailey obviously has the advantage of incumbency, but with nearly 60 percent remaining undecided at this point, it looks to be a competitive race, particularly as the candidates kick their campaigns into high gear.
Regarding the poll numbers, Scharf campaign general consultant Nick Maddux said:
“Despite the gift of an unprecedented run of fortuitous earned media from lawsuits originated by his predecessors, appointed Attorney General Andrew Bailey still can’t crack 25% against conservative outsider Will Scharf. This race is ripe for the taking.”
Bailey’s campaign had this to say about the race:
“General Bailey is a Missouri-grown America First fighter who continues to rack up big wins for Missouri conservatives, from ousting the incompetent and corrupt Soros-backed Circuit Attorney in the City of St. Louis, to leading the most significant First Amendment case (Missouri v. Biden) in our nation’s history, protecting children, and delivering justice for victims alongside local law enforcement. That’s why General Bailey is endorsed by Missouri’s major law enforcement organizations and why Missourians in every corner of the state are investing in our campaign, while our opponent barely can raise a dime in the state. General Bailey has made Missouri the front-line of freedom and it’s clear that Missouri conservatives are rallying behind our campaign’s message.
“While General Bailey delivers results for Missouri conservatives, Wall Street Willy wants to play politics. But Missourians aren’t falling for Willy’s bag of tricks and pathetic attempts to score cheap political points. Wall Street Willy should focus on finding actual Missourians to contribute to his campaign, but unlike the coastal elites funding his campaign, it’s clear Missourians just aren’t interested in playing his trickster games.”
Clearly, the campaigns are eager to do battle over those undecideds in the days ahead.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect that the investigation launched by AG Bailey was into the Washington University Pediatric Transgender Center rather than St. Louis University. We apologize to our readers for this error.